The insidious reality of weight loss talk

Several people over the past few weeks have asked me the innocent question “Have you lost weight?” followed up by the statement “You look great!”

I know these words were not spoken with any kind of ill-intent. Quite the opposite actually. I know these people were trying to build me up, to tell me they’ve noticed my work, to compliment my effort.

The truth though?

It’s not a compliment to me.

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight. I’m sure I have. My clothes fit differently, looser. I seem smaller when I look in the mirror. I don’t have a scale, though. Ever since my nephew broke ours when he jumped on it six years ago, there has been no scale in our house. That has been such a blessing because I could finally break free from the weight mentality that so easily ensnares us women. Or men. Or people. Weight is a big deal. And losing it is a really big deal.

Do you want to hear the really dark truth, though?

The past couple weeks, all I do when I walk by a mirror now is look at my body. I scrutinize it. Today, I put on my running clothes and then I stood profile and I just examined.

Hmm, yeah, my butt does look smaller. And I think my stomach doesn’t stick out as much as it used to. Still pretty big, though. And soft. That’s kinda gross. Boobs are full of milk, so they don’t count. Man, even my face looks more slender. That makes me look a little older, too, doesn’t it?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some weight. I wonder how much. I know it was 25 pounds a few months ago, it’s probably more now. I bet I’m getting really close to 160. Just ten more pounds and the BMI chart wouldn’t think I’m overweight…

All of these thoughts whirred through my mind and have been because of the constant prime of weight loss by these well-meaning questions. I find myself holding in my stomach more. I watch my shadow while running to see if I look thinner there too. I admire how ‘thin’ I look when I lay on my side and everything droops to the floor. But the upper hip looks darn good.

It’s because of this dark reality in my life that I intentionally stay away from weight-related talk. I don’t even know how to respond to those questions anymore because it makes me feel uncomfortable. It reinforces that idea that I wouldn’t look great if I hadn’t lost weight. I would still be unremarkable and chubby. Not great. I stutter and stammer through an answer, coming up with something like ‘well, I AM training for a marathon’ and leave it at that.

I know I’ve talked about this subject before, but I think it bears repeating given the destructive thoughts and actions such comments have wreaked on me over the past couple weeks. I have been lacking in motivation for my running and working out and right now, I wonder if the weight loss talk isn’t a big part of it.

I am working really hard and people notice I’m not as chubby.

Do you know what I notice?

I feel strong. I can go up the stairs carrying kids without as much effort. I can run 20 consecutive miles. I can do some push ups on my toes. I can pop up off the floor more easily than I’ve been able to in months. I can carry heavy stuff more easily now. My clothes don’t hurt and feel really uncomfortable when I wear them. I have more stamina. I have more energy.

Talking only about weight loss minimizes everything else. It perpetuates the idea that weight loss is king (or I suppose queen in the world of women). I don’t do any exercise to lose weight. It’s not a motivator. Weight loss is the only goal that will let you down over and over and over again. Those last five pounds will always hang on. It will always creep back up. It’s not sustainable. It creates an obsession with a mechanical device on the bathroom floor.

It shuts out all the other ways your body is changing when you start to live a healthier lifestyle. It minimizes the fact that you can go upstairs and not be winded. It minimizes that you’re not hefting yourself off the floor. It minimizes that it’s easier to play with your kids.

I get it. Weight is so tangible. That number is so easy to track and to follow. It’s so easy to see forward and backward progress. It’s so insidious, though. Because success is hinging on numbers going down. What if they go back up? Then what? How is your mood? What is your reaction? How do you treat others around you?

What if we could finally let go of this idea? What if we could fully embrace that strength is what matters? That progress of ability is what matters? What if we could ask new questions?

You look stronger. Have you been working on it?
You look fit and healthy. What is your secret?
Have you been working out? You look strong. 

Can we cut the crap with talking about weight? Can we finally stop talking about it?

I am so tired of fighting the urge to scrutinize myself in the mirror. I’m tired of wondering if I’ve lost weight. I’m tired of picking myself apart. I’m tired of wondering where the weight loss has happened. I’m tired of only my lack of chubbiness being noticed.

I am working so hard for the goal of running a marathon and it’s like that ability is so unnoticed. My miles are increasing. I am running easier, faster. And yet with all these weight-related primes, I almost can’t help myself from looking and checking and ultimately being disappointed.

Let’s commit to no more weight talk. Let’s talk about feeling healthy. Let’s talk about feeling good. Let’s talk about seeing different results. Let’s talk about increased miles and increased resistance and increased repetitions. Let’s reframe our fitness goals to not include a number on a mechanical box. Let’s help each other to stay away from that stupid mirror that tells lies about our progress and beats us down because we are not perfect.

Please help me succeed. Find other ways to compliment my hard work. Stop asking about my weight.

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